Manufacturing Month Special

In this week’s Manufacturing Ecommerce Success Series, our guest speakers were Annabel Briquet, Bob Zastrow, and Kristina Harrington. All three of the guests are executives at GenAlpha Technologies.  GenAlpha Technologies help OEM manufacturers service their distribution partners and customers with ecommerce solutions to make it easier to get the right replacement parts for equipment.

This week the Manufacturing Ecommerce team decided to celebrate a manufacturing month with various guests.

In this week’s Manufacturing Ecommerce Success Series, our guest speakers were Annabel Briquet, Bob Zastrow, and Kristina Harrington. All three of the guests are executives at GenAlpha Technologies.  GenAlpha Technologies help OEM manufacturers service their distribution partners and customers with ecommerce solutions to make it easier to get the right replacement parts for equipment.

The conversation of this episode started with Curt introducing this as the manufacturing month celebration. After this, Curt asked Kris about GenAlpha and their work at the company.

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Responding to this question, Kris said that the people that she works with at GenAlpha are the ones that go way back to Bucyrus with her. She further added that they all worked at this manufacturing company and hold their experience from there.

Moving on, Curt asked the three about where the manufacturing industry stands mid and post Covid-19. Annabel responded to this question and said that the initial issue all of them are facing is the availability of products and supplies.

Adding to this, she also said that all the other aspects are connected with these two scenarios. Moreover, she also said that when they don’t have the raw material or the ready product with them, they cannot communicate the same further to the supply chain. Therefore, in such a situation, you cannot be sure about your complete supply.

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Moving on, Curt further proceeded with the manufacturing month episode. He then asked Bob about any strategies that he would like to share with the audience. Bob said that when it comes to GenAlpha, their target is to make sure to provide actual information that simple people can understand.

Bob also said that for the people who are not as technical, this informative part is actually very helpful. Talking more about manufacturing month, all the guests shared their insight on further development at GenAlpha and overall in the manufacturing field.

By the end of the conversation of the manufacturing month episode, Bob, Kris, and Annable also talked about the configuration issues and their solutions during manufacturing processes.

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The conversation ended with Curt and Damon thanking the guests for their time.

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people, manufacturing, manufacturers, customer, configurator, chris, big, product, aaron, dan, e commerce, alpha, bob, business, gen, company, annabel, damon, team, digital transformation


Damon Pistulka, Gail Robertson, Bob Zastrow, Annabel Briquet, Dan Bigger, Kris Harrington, Curt Anderson, Erin Courtenay


Damon Pistulka  00:01

Get Chris on board I’m gonna get ready to share


Bob Zastrow  00:11

you got some filters that make me look better


Damon Pistulka  00:14

yeah that’s it I wish they had some for me


Curt Anderson  00:17

Bob you know I’ve been trying to get a filter with hair and it just I can’t pull it off going with it so anyway


Damon Pistulka  00:24

that would be hilarious to


Kris Harrington  00:28

see move around with the hair yeah


Curt Anderson  00:31

the 80s Afro dude so yeah, that was back in the 80s now it was a lot of hair so anyway let’s get this Let’s go All right,


Damon Pistulka  00:38

good stuff well welcome welcome once again we’re gonna go live here on LinkedIn and get things rolling. So the I’m gonna go live we’re gonna hit the video about five seconds we’ll be ready.


Curt Anderson  00:50

Perfect. So Happy Friday everybody October eighth already thinks a long weekend right? For some yes, some you know.


Damon Pistulka  01:00

Alright everyone, Welcome once again to the manufacturing Success Series. It is Friday, it is our time to get going. And we are ready to go today. So our show today is going to be centered around just celebrating manufacturing month and talking to some of the people in manufacturing.

We’ll let some guests come up maybe but we’ve got a special guest with us today as the people from Gen alpha technologies. I’m gonna turn it over to Kurt and we’re gonna get started. We’re live on LinkedIn too. So if anyone’s live on LinkedIn, make sure to drop the comments in questions or anything like that and if you want to join the conversation, get over here to Remo and we can get you on stage maybe a little bit later.


Curt Anderson  01:41

Absolutely So guys happy Friday. It is a wonderful amazing weekend here beautiful fall and we are blessed with our incredible guests from Gen alpha technologies Hello team How are you today?


Kris Harrington  01:55

We’re wonderful Robbie told you so we


Curt Anderson  01:58

I want to do quick introduction so we have our dear beloved Chris who we love with all our heart We have Bob we have Annabel and so Chris if you don’t mind I know you love when I do this I’m going to talk about you for a second you know you know you know where I stand right?

And why I’m doing that I’m jumping off three of your LinkedIn profiles in the chat box but you know Chris is our dear friend our beloved she’s a veteran we love her dearly she’s an e commerce guru just a manufacturing advocate and just fierce fierce leader Chris I found a couple quotes I knew that I want to share with the team I don’t know if Bob and Anna Bob will agree with you guys if you look on Chris’s LinkedIn profile, here’s a few things that what people say about our dear friend Chris Harrington. thankful to have you as a leader authentic dynamic.

First Team Leader. summit professional in depth management, strong sense of business. Excellent manager. Love working for Chris so Chris, you are just such man, I am so honored and privileged that I came into your and I’m not making those those comments up guys, you can go to Chris’s LinkedIn profile profile, check it out. But Chris is a president of Gen alpha technologies and incredible e commerce firm helping manufacturers nationwide. Chris, I’m going to turn it over to you. Could you please let’s introduce are your teammates here? And let’s hear what’s going on under the under the hood at Gen alpha.


Kris Harrington  03:19

Yeah, thank you. You know, I I have to say that I’ve been blessed to work with this team for a very long time. So I happen to be the youngest just by months, I think from Annabel so I’ll just put that out there. You know, I might have more gray hair. But But yeah, this is the exciting team. We’ve got a bunch of chemistry, as you can imagine over here at Gen alpha technologies we all work together at bucyrus back in our manufacturing days. So bucyrus International, was a manufacturer of mining equipment, essentially. And we were acquired by Caterpillar, later in our careers. And then so we all shifted to caterpillar.

So we all had that experience of working for Caterpillar together. But when we really formed Gen alpha, it was with a desire to ease the process of doing business with a manufacturer we truly believed there was a better way of doing business and making it easier for customers. So that’s kind of what united us in the venture that we are in today and have been in for 10 years.

So we are celebrating our 10 year anniversary. And let me share with you a little bit about both of these individuals who I get to call my, you know loving employees that I work alongside. So Bob zastrow Bob was Bobby actually interviewed me at bucyrus International when I went through six interviews to get my job at bucyrus he was one that I remember I I don’t know if Bob asked me a question. I know that he explained to me how the siris work he showed me he drew me a map.

He told me how things how things worked across all of our different subsidiaries, he shared with me challenges. And actually, I learned a ton from him that day, just an interview, and I have been learning from him ever since I can tell you that. So he is our leader of business development, the VP of business development, and he works hand in hand with our sales team, our engineering team, our product team, and our customer success team to ensure that we’re delivering on any commitments we have to customers. So that’s where Bob fits


Annabel Briquet  05:42

lots of hats. Thank you, Bob.


Curt Anderson  05:50

Run applause for Bob. Well done, Bob, man. Great. And you know what, and I was I was checking out your LinkedIn profile as an antibody I saw that you and Chris had a history going back pre Gen alpha. So I this is awesome to see that you know, and it’s all about the people that you work with. And it doesn’t matter the company you guys are tagging along with each other. And that is awesome. So yeah, keep it going.


Kris Harrington  06:11

All right, so so Annabel Annabel is recently promoted to our VP of customer success in product. So this is a I mentioned that definitely something that has been earned for her. She’s been leading our product development strategy, and everything related to communicating with our engineering team, listening to our customers, researching what’s new and important out there, and then bringing those ideas and organizing them in a fashion so that we can deliver them to our customers with the least amount of pain, which ultimately deliver frictionless experiences for our manufacturing customers.

So um, you know, she’s going to be moving from not only owning our product side, but also our customer success team. So that team is responsible for, again, ensuring the success of manufacturers using our platform. So again, it’s for me, it’s a personal delight to work with these people. It makes my job easier. I know I don’t have to be the smartest one in the room, because there are smarter people in the room. So you know, I really be listening to their answers to your questions today.


Curt Anderson  07:28

That is awesome. That’s awesome. And you know what, Chris, I love that line. And I say, hey, unless we’re playing poker, I never want to be the smartest guy in the room. Right? So that’s your I love your strategy there. So let’s just dig right in. And we want it we’re here to celebrate manufacturing month. And we’re just we’re all passionate about manufacturing. So I’m going to put this out to all three of you. Let’s talk about what are you hearing on the streets? What’s going on in manufacturing? Right now? We’re kind of like in his mid post COVID? are we coming out? are we coming back in? What are you hearing on the streets with manufacturing right now?


Kris Harrington  08:01

You want to start with that one with? With your ideas?


Annabel Briquet  08:04

Yeah. So that the one thing that we’re hearing, whether it’s our customer or our friends or anybody is how do they struggle with availability and product availability, and the challenge that it brings into the supply chain, either they’re struggling with raw material or struggling with communicating with their customer for the next availability and product. It impacts everybody impacts engineering, so they can figure it out, that product doesn’t have available, can I replace it with something else. So the commonality of product and how they can change it. So having a bomb, having visibility of what’s in their machine is very important.

And that’s some of the thing that is important to us as well, not being dependent on making phone call or knowledge but having it visible and available. The next thing is, well, we don’t have the product in our shelves, we are waiting for our provider to either give us the raw material or the product itself. And how can we share that information down the road to the supply change, so it doesn’t impact our there, our customer doesn’t impact the other people down the road. So those are the really two big pieces that we keep on hearing over and over and over and what are the solutions that we can provide for them?


Curt Anderson  09:32

All right, how about Bob? How about what are you hearing on the streets? You’re the business development guy. So you’re like you’re right in the trenches hanging out with folks. What do you What are you hearing out there?


Bob Zastrow  09:40

Well, it’s funny because a big part of it was similar to something was going on 1520 years ago. It is related to continuing to pass on knowledge and especially tribal knowledge from the people who truly understand their own products and how it’s built and manufactured and engineered. How can you get down to the next the next group to carry that into the future. Yeah, it’s a huge challenge. Part of it was one of the reasons we kind of helped form Gen alpha.

When we were at bucyrus, we had big successes, and we were acquiring different companies. And we learned along the path, that they all have the same challenges, and that that is definitely one of them. Not only How do you get it transmitted to that next group of people internally, but probably more importantly, how do you make it available for your customers, and your service people and everybody else to utilize on an ongoing basis? So you don’t have to call and get a hold of that one person? Who knows? How do you transmit that knowledge forward and out? into the customers hands?


Curt Anderson  10:47

Right? Man? That is so good. That is such a critical topic right there. If you guys don’t mind, like, Can we let’s dig a little deeper into that, you know, and that for anybody else out there just for me about that, Chris?

Sir, in a recent being daymond, I had the honor and privilege we interview the president of the National tooling and machining Association this morning, and Roger Atkins amazing guy lifetime, you know, manufacturing guy, super passionate, and, you know, US manufacturing. And we were talking about, you know, the generation shift, and so on, so forth. I love what you’re saying, Bob, let’s, let’s take a little bit further, can you share the tactics and strategies that you guys are using any success stories that you’re seeing what like, transferring that legacy information?


Bob Zastrow  11:33

Okay, well, well, that’s a big part of what Gen alpha isn’t does is to try and transmit things that are, you know, engineering based, or even marketing based sales based information to make it easily accessible and digestible. For people who are not necessarily technical as well, that’s a big part, but only only a portion of the people that are trying to communicate with truly understand the products, you want to make it very seamless, intuitive, and visual, I guess that’s a big part of what we’re trying to do as well.

It’s not just written down. It is a visual representation of things. So a big focus from the manufacturing side of things is keeping that equipment operating. And how do you how do you find the right parts to keep it operating? How do you do that? without necessarily understanding that? I mean, yeah, might be a highly trained service technician, right?

Well, thank you can you go online, open up a tool, our tool, hopefully, and be able to navigate seamlessly and see a visualization a 2d drawing a 3d drawing appropriate visual that you can, you can have the part that you need in your hand, and you can compare it to something that you can see on the screen. We have that going out. mobile responsive design, so you can see it on a phone or an iPad, as opposed to just on your laptop or your desktop in your office. So you might be able to feel doing that. So we’re trying to think of all those different applications. Right?


Kris Harrington  13:13

Yeah. And I have some real practical experience that I can share there. Because I remember, you know, when I came in to bucyrus, it was probably two and a half years before I ever saw our equipment actually operate. Right? So I had been working in the business, I had been talking to customers in the business, I had been sending strategies in the business, but you couldn’t assemble a full machine in our factory because it was so big, it went out in 27 containers and then got assembled in the field.

So it wasn’t until I personally visited a mine and got out there and saw the equipment that I could fully visually understand Wow. Now imagine all of these leaders in organizations are leaving with this tribal knowledge, all that experience. Many people need training. And it’s both in the manufacturing companies, so internal to manufacturers, but it’s external to customers. There’s a lot of procurement buyers who never even look at something.

But when you offer a digital tool, like what, what what Jennifer does, but lots of other companies have digital opportunities as well, what the ability to, if I would have had access to a full bill of material with 2d and 3d drawings to go into assembly when a customer was asking about something. Imagine what would have triggered in my brain to help me understand things quicker and have a more intelligent conversation with the customer I was talking to right so imagine customer service teams who are coming in with they just got out of college. We all want them in our businesses, but they don’t know that equipment.

But if you arm them with the tools where if they’re taking a phone call from a couple Because yes that still happens today and that customer has some questions you both can be online together looking at the machinery and talking through the problem so that if you have to transfer that call to somebody in technical service to assist your level of understanding the communication is that much better and that’s what’s gonna be required as these baby boomers exit the industry I think I read something that there are 44 million baby boomers still in the workforce today.

But by 2024 that age group is going to be 60 to 78 so there’s gonna be this mass exodus of information, the the longevity, the culture, some of the things I think that is both a challenge for companies, but it’s also a huge opportunity. No, yeah, no, when a new generation comes in or when you solve these problems, there is such a shift that takes place and that’s what becomes really exciting right is what’s going to happen in this shift when this new diverse group of people enter the workforce, specifically in manufacturing what what are things gonna look like? Yes, here’s one we’re talking right


Damon Pistulka  16:17

exactly because Kurt like when we were talking with Roger Atkins this morning from from the ntma he brought this up to about getting the younger people into manufacturing and how the some of the younger business owners that he works with in the association just think about their business differently and think about Phil Phil and Robbie I can’t even say the word right now on topic topic concerns and doing this stuff and but when we think about that their digital influence growing up with with digital as much as they did whereas us that were a couple years older than him didn’t This is gonna really be something


Curt Anderson  16:57

and so man this is so powerful and now I hate to say it like we got to we got to run a little deeper so they he gave an example it was a manufacturing machine shop that I know you know, grandfather had a business for years grandson pick it over, and he’s bringing us he’s on LinkedIn, very aggressive, doing all sorts of fun things.

And again, when we think about that manufacturer, you know, this thing of the small guys with you know, 510 15 employees, and they had Annabel on the team or Bob on the team, and boy Annabel had everything she knows everything inside and boy we rely on Annabel but boy, when animal Annabel is on vacation, or she decides like, Hey, you know what, I’m not gonna be here anymore.

Now, what a tremendous vulnerability. And you guys are racing such a massive challenge, a massive vulnerability in giving folks such a competitive advantage. And it doesn’t need to be hard. Like it doesn’t need to be hard. You’re actually making their lives. Yeah. Right. Your Man arrives so much easier. You know,


Annabel Briquet  17:58

I think we we’ve been the word out there is transformation transformation. Yeah, yeah. It’s it’s truly that because the the movement to an online visibility, forces the business to think differently, and to put information available to everybody. And this is where you go to the person that has done it forever. Ask this question. Why are you doing this way? Why? And how? And why not that way?

Oh, we are not doing it this way. Because it caused this problem down the road with those elements. But by asking those, then you take the best or process, put it online. So whether it’s how you calculate frayed? or Why are you putting the assembly that way or whatever it is, and you you establish you take that knowledge and put it online available to everybody, right in a simple way. So the repetitive and simple simplicity is available. And then the complexities still reside, and still require a human to be able to answer the question,


Curt Anderson  19:11

man, I absolutely love that I had the honor and privilege yesterday I did a live workshop. It was great being in person. And it was at a university nearby me the Center for entrepreneurial leadership. And I was going around the room asking all these entrepreneurs been in business for 30 2030 years.

Wonderful manufacturers. And they were consistently saying, you know, and I asked every single one of them, what’s the key to success? What’s been your key? One cavity, and over over the theme was focusing on the customer, making it easy for them. And I think sometimes I don’t know if you know if sometimes what I will say we sabotage ourselves, but we want to make it easy for our customers.

But sometimes we make it easy for ourselves, but we still over ourselves. Absolutely love what you’re saying. Because now if we could flip the script, let’s look internally. Let’s take care of ourselves. We want to take care have our customers, but what I hear what you guys are doing, let’s take care of ourselves internally. Let’s make ourselves let’s make our lives easier. So then when somebody does go off into the sunset or somebody moves on, I’m going to show my age daymond you remember this TV show that we grew up on called Happy Days.

Remember that? Happy Days, and I’m bringing it up because our dear friends are in Wisconsin, remember that? You’re under finds he would like walk up to the like the little the jukebox and he tap it and then like a kick on right? How many manufacturers have a Fonzie internally and walks up to them? Yeah, they know exactly what screw to turn what not to hit they do the fancy punch in for interview young people out there just you have to Google what happy days or whatever. Yeah, but anything of those legacy you know the, you know, Joe on the shop floor Dan bigger on the shop floor. He knows how to fix it. He’s fixed it for 30 years.

Now Joe’s gonna move on into the sunset. Now what do we do? Well, now, thanks to Gen alpha. We don’t have to worry about Fonzie leaving us right. Is that what I’m hearing? Right? That’s right. What you guys are cooler than finds Chris. I think you’re Aaron, you’re too young to know what we’re talking about. Right. So anyway, let’s talk a little bit more about that. So Annabel, you talked about the digital transformation. That’s, you know, where e commerce geek geeks? Chris, what’s my favorite word? configurator. Right. Talk a little bit about a little bit about e commerce. Let’s get into a little bit about the configurators going on at econ Gen alpha.


Kris Harrington  21:36

Where do you want to start?


Annabel Briquet  21:41

Yeah, it’s how it’s interesting how one word can mean so many different things. That that’s that’s where it’s becoming interesting because I could say configurator to customer a or customer B and what comes up in their head is completely different. And what it means or when it changes and so, which configurator are you talking?


Curt Anderson  22:08

Yeah, well, you know, Alright, so let’s talk let’s um, you know, I’m glad you asked that question. Let’s talk about the concept. Okay, so let’s say there’s a custom manufacturer out there. And you know, Chris, as you all know, you know, we beat the man I just you know, if anybody does want to hear about e commerce, don’t come talk to me. Right? Just, but when we talk ecommerce, a lot of those custom manufacturers are like, Hey, wait a minute, you know, we’re custom, we make goods for somebody else, we’re not an OEM, we don’t have that proprietary product.

That’s when we perk up. And you know, we break out that little stop being the best kept secret theory that we have. And we want to talk configurators so let’s just talk maybe kind of broad into surface liquid Aaron brought Brett, do you see the picture there? Aaron, you’re the best guy I love you. Yeah, we’ll just talk about so Annabelle. Let’s see, like there’s a custom manufacturer out there. And they’re just like, I don’t know what a configurator is, what are you talking about, let’s just get it like kind of like, let’s go higher level just kind of broad without getting into the weeds. What is a configurator in concept.


Annabel Briquet  23:10

So a configurator is providing the capability to the customer to choose specifically the color or an option that is on an equipment, so the equipment could come out with a base. And then there are some elements that can be added to it based on the customer. And this is where it’s really funny to go through configurator design with a customer because it forces them to simplify it. And to go down the number of options. I think people that are on the shop floor loves that because then it’s not so many different variations, you ended up toward limited number of shopping or production.

So yeah, I started having some benefit on the on the shop floor and say okay, today we’re gonna build model one and there is five options and we can get do it. But the whole configuration forces the manufacturer to make some choices, in terms of this is the base, those are the options that we’re going to make available with that base. And that’s the price we’re gonna make available. It’s it’s, it’s reduced, reduce the complexity. And and ultimately, even though customer thinks that they want a billion of choices, they don’t really they want something simple, where I asked you five questions, and then I have my answer.


Damon Pistulka  24:49

Yeah. You know, the funny thing about this is that people have been building configurators forever in the real world in manufacturing, right. You talk about any Anything you look at just take Caterpillar payloader there’s there may be different size of motors, buckets, tires, things like that, that you can do onto it. And you know what you’re doing now electronically, I’ve had the fortune of being able to do this in businesses before and taking a you know, 5060 year old product line and turn it into something that you configure now and now they actually use configurators to sell it.

But it this this on the on the manufacturing side, because we’re talking about manufacturing month. This drives incredible efficiencies in a factory, because now I don’t just let Damon decides that he wants something we’ve never made before because we’re custom for everybody into now you’ve got these five options in my assembly line, my manufacturing space, whatever set up to make these five options really well. And then when you look at how this all assembles together in the final assembly, so that’s it’s just it’s amazing.

The the amount of simplification that drives in the physical process of making that and ultimately drives much higher customer satisfaction because we haven’t allowed them to do something that they don’t even realize could probably not be what they really wanted anyway. Yeah,


Annabel Briquet  26:17

right. Well, it simplifies on the shop floor. It simplifies for the purchasing team, it simplifies for the vendor at because I have to have billions of skews now I have five it’s Yeah, five warehouse, because they don’t want to have to have enough to maintain there’s a bunch of it’s all way too many different things. Yeah,


Damon Pistulka  26:37

we literally when we did it, cut the manual, we went in, we weren’t that big company, we about a half a million square feet of manufacturing, we cut it in half, manufacturing warehouse, cut everything in half. Yeah. And you know, when you do that the scale and of your savings and efficiency gains are crazy.


Kris Harrington  26:55

But imagine how you can even market yourself, right? When you go through this exercise of seducing and simplifying, now you have a clear message that can help you market so people can find you when they need that thing that you do. And that’s true for very large manufacturers or the smallest manufacturer who’s putting out widgets, but the widgets do come in a couple different shapes. Yeah, for different forms for a couple different applications. But now they’ve narrowed it so that they even know how to reach the audience. That’s been waiting to find them all the time. And that goes to your best kept secret. Yeah, I


Damon Pistulka  27:35

know Mike, man. Yeah, man, we’re


Curt Anderson  27:38

like, we’re just all singing to each other’s choir right now. I remember just like totally geeking out on a configurator conversation. Christina, this is like a dream. Man, I just love this. And yeah, and we’re not stopping. Let’s take it even further. Okay, I just I want to keep this going. And Bob, I’d love to hear your insight as well. And the configurator demon like I just showed you. So I have a company that works closely on a configure configurator by being a custom job shop, you know, we’re going to be everything to everybody.

What do we become? Nothing to no one, you know, jack of all trades, master of none, by anabol exactly what you’re saying by narrowing it down. You know, let’s just recap. Purchasing every you know, you’ve put everything in your power to create a competitive advantage, not trying to be everything to everybody. We had to pick a cause, you know, and there might be that naysayer or negative nancies like hey, but what about this job?

What about this job? Well, you know what, they can still submit a drawing for those other outside jobs that fall out of our configurator. But let’s live in our configurator from a marketing standpoint, now we have an SEO strategy now we have a keyword strategy. Now we have a content strategy. And now we’re creating such a competitive edge because now our ideal customer name and we call them our soulmates, they’re going to hang out on our website and use our configurator and they’re not going somewhere else. Bob, I’d love for you to chime in what are you hearing or what are you talking about with configurators with your clients


Bob Zastrow  29:00

I mean you’ve touched on all the important points the one other thing I probably emphasize is as you’re going in to utilize the configurator the way it shows to that end customer that the choices that they make which ultimately end up configuring the end product than they get they all make sense to them I want this many horsepower I want this much of a length I want this color is not that important but


Curt Anderson  29:25

yeah, right whatever it might be, it could be


Bob Zastrow  29:28

right as they’re making those choices they’re reinforcing in their own mind that yes, this is a good supply everything I need. Yeah, no need to take care of the ultimate job that needs to be done. Right and and you can align that in a very easy to utilize logical fashion that you take them down the path. So again, write it for a break from the beginning, they’re very happy because they’re reinforcing the steps that they already had in their mind all the way through the process.


Curt Anderson  29:55

Right? And I love and I don’t finish my thought I just daymond I showed you that lead last This little tiny custom manufacturer 20,000 units for SpaceX, you know, here’s this little hole in a wall, you know, 30 person manufacturer and because they’re attacking a specific keyword strategy, because they’re living with their configurator, now they’re opening up the door to like Lockheed Martin major fortune, not even 500 100 companies. And so I just, I love, love this direction. So I know, man, we could go all day. But, David, go ahead.


Damon Pistulka  30:26

One other thing, though, too. We’re all talking about configurators now, but what is the hot topic that every manufacturer is talking about? Now, I can’t hire people, I can’t hire people, I can’t hire people that are skilled, right? So we’re talking about the configurator a, the something like the gen alpha system, to become a customer service people that to build that tribal knowledge into your system. So your customer service people, and everybody through your distribution chain, we’ll get that knowledge.

So it’s not so critical to hire somebody that has all the experience in the world. And then when you look back, when you’re doing this in the operations, it does the same thing. Now Damon is out here building, I build these five things, I don’t build an infinite quantity of different things. I build these five, we can make our standardization all the way through the company that allows us to hire people easier, train them better, and them to do better work.


Curt Anderson  31:26

And your quality control person is in love with this configurator too, right Annabel?


Annabel Briquet  31:32

There’s so many people that are happy.


Curt Anderson  31:36

Like we could go on and on. So guys, I want to be mindful of everybody’s time and I want to get back to the table so you guys can chat. Chris let’s just let’s let’s wrap up on e commerce. What do you got? Give me some like parting thoughts digital transformation. 2021. What are you seeing hearing on the street with e commerce with your manufacturers?


Kris Harrington  31:55

Yeah, I think what, for so long? You know, I mentioned We’ve been in business for 10 years, we’re celebrating our 10 year anniversary, I think for eight years. Thank you. For eight years, we were convincing people they needed to do e commerce. I know you guys


Curt Anderson  32:13

can resonate. I know you’re gonna threat.


Kris Harrington  32:17

Now it feels like we’re getting pulled into this guy. Yes, you’re gonna, yes, a shift is taking place. Right. And, you know, one of the things we talked about before we got on today was just how important it is to get started. Yeah, I’m happy to get started.

Because these problems, I would call them your process, and data challenges that exist today that you’re living with, you don’t really, you’re not really forced to attack them until you start a project like this. Some things that we already mentioned, but freight, everybody has trouble with freight, right, they don’t have weights and dimensions on all their products. And in a world where if you decide to add going to direct, right, so maybe you’ve been selling to a distribution channel forever, now you’re going direct.

So you’ve been selling crates of product, and now you have to sell one off product and you’re shipping it to multiple locations, whether that be domestically here in the US or globally. You need to have freights and dimensions to get that stuff. Right, right. But you don’t really attack these challenges until you get started sales tax challenges. You know, having images of your products, getting good descriptions out there, that your customers, help your marketing team, help your sales team even talk intelligently about the solutions that you offer, we’re finding that you have to get started.

And it is going to be an iterative process. The first e commerce site you start with is not going to be the commerce site you end with, but you’ve got to start somewhere. And this is a journey, we talk about this all the time. You know that the first thing is start doing something because your customers are begging for it, they want it. And by doing it, you’ll be faced with solving some of these process challenges that probably cost you time and money already.

And by getting started, you’re moving in that direction of satisfied customers is going to put you ahead of the competitors. And I think the brave souls, the manufacturers who have said yes, because they really aren’t brave souls. Many of them are walking in. Nobody on their team has ever done this before. If they’re nervous, they’re anxious. They don’t want it to be a failure, because then if they think it’s on them, it’s their head, right? Well, companies like us and you guys are out there to help them be successful. Use our knowledge or experience our tools to help you succeed. I mean, I guess that’s the first thing I can think of hurt In response to e commerce


Curt Anderson  35:01

well phenomenal and I I love what you’re saying because past seven eight years it was the why right? Why should I use numbers Why would I please you know like and it was a big heart It was a hard convince right yes not being the best kept secret pass now with COVID now Now the question is hey Chris it went from Why should I do e commerce so hey Chris how do i do e commerce right big big change and I know unite we could tie it now.

I have one I have one more question I have to ask. We’ve become dear close friends this past year and so you know you look at these silver linings that came out of COVID COVID has been absolutely awful rendus you know there are some you know a lot of positive things and you know God bless everybody it’s been you know, harmed by this either you know personally health wise loss of loved one economically What have you However, there’s been a lot of silver linings that have come on, I find that you yourself Gen alpha extremely intentional with your digital transformation from a messaging communication.

You are you as a president company you are relentless. You’re on LinkedIn you’re in all sorts of forums Sam our dear friend Sam gooped clubhouse when when did you make that digital transformation of like I’m going to be intentional was this well before COVID because I or was this more of a recent thing to share just share quickly your your story?


Kris Harrington  36:24

Yeah, and I will say that even I have been dragged along right? This is not a comfortable space for me extra birdie and all the time I call it that I just used that earlier today with her but we made it a goal in 2020 at the start of the year that we were going to start marketing ourselves and learn how to do it so that we could also teach our manufacturers work with how to do it yeah, it became intentional we had goals behind it we had we measure it we report out on a monthly we have goals on number of posts we make in LinkedIn number of blog posts we commit how many speaking events I’m a part of this counts towards a goal right?

So if you don’t have the goals, it doesn’t move you into that uncomfortable space of what you you know, solving the things you don’t know so we became intentional before COVID thank God we did because COVID hit and now we were all remote and we had to figure out new ways of doing things so it kind of put us in a perfect position. So I would say I’m about 18 months in individually doing more but as a team, the contribution from our team actually hiring marketing people I will tell you for eight years Jennifer did not have marketing people we thought we could grow word of mouth Well I can tell all of you it doesn’t work that way.

It’s a nice way to go. But it is not the only way you’re gonna grow and it’s not actually gonna grow fast especially when there’s so many other tools that are available to you so this has been a learning curve for us we are manufacturers at heart We thought manufacturing marketing was create a brochure and show up at a tradeshow right so we’ve had to learn this tool and we’re going to be helping our customers as well.


Curt Anderson  38:20

That is awesome and you are such an inspiration we just we adore you We adore our relationship with john alpha we appreciate all the support that you give you know we’ve been doing our trainings and you and your team are big support for us we had a great time at our webinar a few weeks ago with you and so we just we we worship you Chris Bob had me at hello Chris and it’s just been a love affair ever since so guys

I want to thank you thank you thank you for what you do for manufacturers what we want to do now we want it let’s turn this into we have a small intimate group today let’s make the students to do a little little party I know a lot of you guys go to Sam’s happy hour we’re gonna have our own little happy hour let’s do it let’s bring a couple let’s bring Aaron on stage man let’s bring Aaron let’s get Dan bigger up here we got good all right


Damon Pistulka  39:07

we’re gonna bring people up now we were coming on let’s bring you


Curt Anderson  39:10

guys up and what we’d like to do is let’s just like what are we hearing on the streets for e commerce maybe just like it might be a gentle for love fest


Erin Courtenay  39:18

era where do I begin? You know that Chris has just she’s been such a good friend and an inspiration for me. I just I will I happen to have I love people that are what you might call a jumble of contradictions only in terms of like what you were you might stereotype someone and think oh, like everybody in manufactures this way. Everybody that does this. She has a farm. She’s traveled the world, literally. manufacturing. She has an deep knowledge of technology like it’s just blood Not it’s just not all those things that you would immediately you know assume about a person and that’s just, it’s just joyful.

I love it again and you asked me about jenelle so but that tells me about gene alpha is that it’s a company that respects the work that people do they’re not just looking for a cookie cutter like oh you fit the mold or whatever they’re like you’re a strong individual that can represent as well and that speaks well for Gen alpha as a company which then of course tells you that they must have an excellent product and then all of the team has those attributes so I just couldn’t be a bigger fan


Curt Anderson  40:43

absolutely man we’re just raving raving Aaron’s Dad you’re just a ball of energy you don’t you don’t


Damon Pistulka  40:49

know what what are you excited about in manufacturing Aaron you you work with manufacturers and other companies helping them with their their web solutions as far as the you know that the website integrations with all the e commerce so what are you guys seeing in manufacturing that’s really got you excited?


Erin Courtenay  41:11

Well, I feel like Chris and I had a great conversation recently and it’s sort of like the horizon part that’s exciting and you know, I don’t want to put things off but like some really cool stuff is coming down the line in terms of just digital transformation, cultural change, and just re embracing manufacturing is like Central and core to the American experience in a new and modern way that just feels really revitalizing and inspiring and that totally excites me and that’s where digital is really going to have a part to play and I just yeah cool


Curt Anderson  41:53

god i Damon you’re recording this aren’t you? Believe that I couldn’t write fast enough I got an error and you know I’m old and slow I just couldn’t man crop yeah


Kris Harrington  42:09

oh, every time Aaron speaks it’s like that


Curt Anderson  42:14

I can’t wait we do this on a date I must we both have been like really good people in a previous life because like sit here with this crowd Yeah, yeah, thank you for watching oh my god now we got 52 My heart can’t handle this. Bigger in the house look at these I got the ocean behind them look at this Yeah, that way. And bigger Happy Friday happy manufacturing month my friend. Welcome to the stage what’s going on in your world in manufacturing?


Dan Bigger  42:47

It’s high time in manufacturing. It’s the best time to be in manufacturing


Curt Anderson  42:50

the best time ever? Yeah,


Dan Bigger  42:52

I get I mean I’ve done cold outreach for years and I’m getting more response daily than I have and it’s amazing.


Damon Pistulka  42:59



Curt Anderson  42:59

dude you are fierce fierce advocate you are everywhere. If anybody doesn’t know his Twitter chat group on Thursdays Aaron I know like man you were killing me yesterday by the way. You’re you’re active on a Twitter group. I mean look what you’ve done you know and you know what you’re too modest because you never take credit and I one of these days I need you to take credit but you do an awesome job.

Just like Chris is a great leader bringing a great team together to an alpha you’ve you’ve collected What an amazing group of manufacturers nationwide that get together on Twitter places worldwide Thursday worldwide Thank you Thanks for Yeah, absolutely worldwide. How did I talk about that man? How did that thing get going?


Dan Bigger  43:41

we copied the group out of the UK actually it’s we cheated


Curt Anderson  43:46

everything from America comes from the UK right?


Dan Bigger  43:51

I don’t take credit for anything I’m surrounded by a bunch of good people and Kirsten and Jen wagman helped get started and Robbie now and Julie bustillo It’s a group effort we could not do it by ourselves Yeah. Do it all the time I don’t know idea.


Curt Anderson  44:06

I tell you are a huge advocate for us manufacturing up and down for Workforce Development marketing we dude I don’t know if your ears are ring because we do training demons you’re doing training constantly. You’re like you’ve set the bar like we can say well you got to be like Dan bigger and bigger. I did a workshop yesterday I’m like here’s my friend Dan bigger you got to be bigger so


Dan Bigger  44:27

nobody does it. LinkedIn tells me all the time nobody does it. You know cuz in the metrics that I see nobody’s doing it.


Damon Pistulka  44:34

Yeah, that this is the thing that I keep telling people and what what Kurt is talking about is when we’re talking to manufacturers like yeah, LinkedIn Yeah, LinkedIn and I’m like no, you don’t understand. Go look at Dan bigger because Dan is selling this kind of things that you need to you need to look at because he, it’s not like you’re selling something that’s easy, you know, just a $10 product.

You’re you’re selling Like most manufacturers are, where you have a service or you’ve got something that’s like an aerospace kind of component or something with a long lead time you got to find the right people, you got to do what you’re doing, and you’re using it so effectively. And that’s the thing we do and we we kid around with you here today. But seriously, you’re setting you’re setting the groundwork for the future of how people use something like LinkedIn to be able to really sell manufacturing services and more technical products.


Dan Bigger  45:32

Well, two things about that. I hated social media. Before I started, I hate it my wife was on Facebook constantly and it was just ridiculous and the whole Facebook notion I couldn’t stand and then I got hired at CBT and I jumped in and I knew it needed to be done and it took off I mean I got the CVT page up over 10,000 followers on Twitter and I’m doing the same now with my personal brand and I’m trying to build up our company brands but it’s and it’s as much as I’m selling a product I’m selling me I’m selling what I do I’m selling what I’m you know, if I’m up at you know, curtsies me up before in the morning you know,


Damon Pistulka  46:15

today isn’t it


Curt Anderson  46:15

that’s ready to go Hey Dan. Yeah Dan puts out a half days he just you know like for the morning till six in the evening y’all


Dan Bigger  46:24

so five sports are over


Curt Anderson  46:27

well Dan The thing is like you you know you’re an amazing father respects you you know we’ve gotten together and man we I miss you dude you move south on me but you know you’re just a great advocate. Damon why why we’re flattering Dan and Chris and Bob and Annabel and Aaron let’s bring Gail get Dave up here I did


Damon Pistulka  46:44

I tried she must not she must not be ready to Hey How about


Curt Anderson  46:47

me ready?


Damon Pistulka  46:48

Oh there she


Curt Anderson  46:50

Now it’s party but Dan thank you for joining I know Gail let’s talk about so these you have a couple panels going on let’s talk about those. Look at this manufacturing party right



now. Yes


Gail Robertson  47:03

Well I’m super excited because David and David just that’s perfect for talking about it the panel next week because Oh hold on we’ll be having this first panel we had last week had a Trade Commissioners and we had raised the Gonzo the manufacturing unicorn


Curt Anderson  47:22

a unicorn my


Gail Robertson  47:25

my son you know can you can I come back for my son Yes you can. So hold on


Damon Pistulka  47:32

all right I’ll take the gal off for now and but no I’m really seriously though we are going to run out of time here because we go until 1130 or my time whatever time it is your time there again I can’t think now it’s 230 or whatever but so we will we will make sure we’re done there because Dan is our clock watcher he’s got to get her on the right time because if everyone


Dan Bigger  47:59

worried about things starting on time


Curt Anderson  48:00

yeah he’s the 132 watchdog man he doesn’t care how long we go Damon he just might eat we could go till midnight he just wants to starting on time it


Dan Bigger  48:10

goes back when I was a kid my mother was late for everything and I despise being late


Kris Harrington  48:14

yeah so embarrassing when you’re late right?


Dan Bigger  48:18

For everything I do it simple solution


Damon Pistulka  48:22



Curt Anderson  48:23

Alright so Chris I we have So Dan is great advocate for manufacturing custom manufacturing. Let’s talk a little bit and I know Dan, we have a lot of e commerce conversations dude love your brother you read you read stop being the best kept secret? Are their e commerce opportunities for custom manufacturers? Dan, do you see things any differently? Or any advice for the team at john alpha? How can they speak to a custom manufacturer on those ecommerce opportunities and for my dear friend Aaron,


Dan Bigger  48:50

we just got into it actually.


Curt Anderson  48:52

Oh, dude. We part man I don’t know if I can take this.


Dan Bigger  48:58

Yeah, we do. We’re we were custom profile extrusion, but also big into tubing. And we’re starting to ecommerce with our plastic, medical tubing and other tubing and I find some other industries that we could go ecommerce with. So it’s just a matter of time before we get them all up. Nice.


Curt Anderson  49:14

Wait, when you hear me getting all giddy and excited about configurators that’s mine and Chris little bond. I do see like, whether you’re in your previous jobs, your current you know, the company you’re with now I do see configurators is a prominent tool. Do you see them in? Other companies are like what’s your take on configurators


Dan Bigger  49:33

that you just kind of get started. That’s the biggest sell. I mean, it’s it’s selling into the company to get people to do anything. You know, most people were just afraid of everything and they don’t want to do it. So the people that actually get off their butts and go do it or have a huge advantage over everybody else.


Curt Anderson  49:48

Yeah, you know, that is a phenomenal point. So I’m sorry to keep bringing this up. I did this fun little workshop yesterday. daymond Man, I had a good time at all sorts of fun. I don’t even know if the people in the audience had fun. I had a ride So my new stick now is I talked about you know what, especially us men ladies you’re gonna attach to this we are out how big our egos how fat how fragile and delicate they’re you know we’re about that right Aaron you know right we’re big tough guys we’re about this fragile right guys you know Dan Damon How do you guys like asking for directions Bob?

I hate asking for directions why you look like like I’m gonna look like a fool right guys don’t want to look dumb and Dan I absolutely love what you’re saying because my preach yesterday at my workshop was like make your website as easy as humanly possible Why? Because our soulmates are ideal buyers don’t want to feel dumb, so let’s make it feel easy and I keep posting like Einstein I’m like let’s make them look like Einstein make them feel like a rock star.

But I love what you’re saying and I think Aaron Chris Damon myself and our side of the world people don’t want to make that that digital transformation because they don’t want to look like the fool internally and be the guy that had to company spend 50 grand on a website or 20 grand on social media or be a damn bigger who’s crushing it on LinkedIn What if I don’t crush it like Dan bigger? Right Dan? I think that’s what you’re saying is like people don’t want to look like a fool and raise their hand and say let’s make this transformation


Dan Bigger  51:18

I have you know again I’m connected with a hell a lot of people and you know when I first started I tried to keep up with people and I knew I just couldn’t because everybody has teams of people do and and doing what we were doing was just fine you know you don’t have to you know you’re not gonna come off you know first day and be GE and have you know beautiful website and right you’re not gonna do it so you got to it’s everything’s a foundation you got to build the foundation and go from there.


Curt Anderson  51:47

Yeah, so team john alpha put out to any one of you What do you think so I love that we can have a whole episode on this of how to not feel like a fool when you make that digital transformation. How do you guys like you guys are great, you know, Sherpas, navigators, guides that help help your clients make that transformation, Chris, Bob, Annabel any tips advice for those folks that are little fearful of making that transformation


Bob Zastrow  52:12

I think you need to focus on two things, it’s kind of going along the same psychological path you were on, it’s ease of use and confidence of choice there. It’s going to be easy to get there and then when you make your choice and you hit you know place the order you got to be confident in that choice. So the information that’s provided to get you to that point makes you confident you don’t leave the site you know, go investigate something else, you have enough information at your fingertips to let you know that it is the right thing


Annabel Briquet  52:43

I would just say there’s no risk because you’re adding a new channel and a new way to reaching out to your customer. So start with something of simple simple you don’t have to launch the whole thing you’re not going to run a marathon just day one you’re going to start running a one mile at a two mile so don’t build the whole thing right away just start simple just one product line something that’s no risk and then you go and by the way the it’s not only men it’s all humans seem to be wrong. And this is why video games are so popular like every time you make a move they tell you you did right


Curt Anderson  53:27

and about man you are you are that man guys always have microphones in front of you here and I don’t know if you can chop here but all of you guys just man I’m not gonna survive this weekend if I never see you guys again No, I love each and every one and I just I don’t know if I can handle all those guys we’re gonna we’re gonna wrap up I’m glad we did we have the sound recording. Yeah, we’re on LinkedIn live.


Damon Pistulka  53:58

Yeah. Well thanks so much. We are gonna go back to tables here give people a few minutes to talk because it’s been a great conversation. I love that we get to celebrate manufacturing for the entire month of October so if you haven’t already get out and just hug your manufacturer around. You got wherever you got around you they did something you know, they made something around you this chair you’re setting in the car you’re driving the computer you’re using, they did it someone did that they had to manufacture that stuff.

You know so this remember that and like we were talking today with with Roger at the ntma they have 1200 manufacturers and he said listen if our 1200 manufacturers stop shipping stuff for what do you say that week or something like that? I think a day the things that the how it would grind our economy to a halt. This, these people are in the background, doing cool stuff, making things Every day so we can live our lives. And if you’re not out there and give him a hug or high five or something like that, you’re just missing out on on some good people. So hug a


Curt Anderson  55:11



Kris Harrington  55:14

for that, Kurt


Curt Anderson  55:15

Yeah, I don’t need all this COVID I don’t know. We’ll see how that goes. Yeah, my next shirt that you’ll see it Yeah. Today I’m ordering on that configurator that I found Damon that T shirt. And it’s gonna say hug a manufacturer. So there you go, guys. Thank you. Oh, my Alpha Team Gen alpha. Thank you. Thank you for joining us today. Thank you for sharing your brilliance. Your passion. Dan. Bigger Aaron. Love you guys. Thank you. All right.


Kris Harrington  55:44

Good to see everybody.


Damon Pistulka  55:46

You bet.

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